Saturday, June 09, 2007

Science Mag: Study Shows Marijuana Heals Skin Ailments

As a person with AIDS who constantly suffers a variety skin ailments year-round, and gets weary taking baths with two or three Aveeno oatmeal packets, using steroidal creams and anti-itch drugs with unpleasant side-effects, I'm so happy researchers may have found a way to alleviate assorted skin problems - medical marijuana!

The abstract of a new study published in the current issue of Science explains some of the developments in highly scientific terms:

Allergic contact dermatitis affects about 5% of men and 11% of women in industrialized countries and is one of the leading causes for occupational diseases. In an animal model for cutaneous contact hypersensitivity, we show that mice lacking both known cannabinoid receptors display exacerbated allergic inflammation. In contrast, fatty acid amide hydrolase–deficient mice, which have increased levels of the endocannabinoid anandamide, displayed reduced allergic responses in the skin. Cannabinoid receptor antagonists exacerbated allergic inflammation, whereas receptor agonists attenuated inflammation. These results demonstrate a protective role of the endocannabinoid system in contact allergy in the skin and suggest a target for therapeutic intervention.

If that's too full of scientific jargon for you, here's an easier to understand explanation excerpted from today's SF Chronicle story on the study:

Skin allergies may be the next reason to use marijuana -- a topical form, at least.

Scientists have long suspected that marijuana, used for recreational purposes and to help fight chronic pain, nausea and even some mental disorders like anxiety and depression, also had anti-inflammatory effects in the body.

Now they think they know why.

In a study published in the current issue of the journal Science, researchers show exactly how they think that works, elucidating how the body's own cannabinoids, compounds that are similar to the ones found in marijuana, reduce inflammation.

Mice had a harder time healing from wounds caused by ear tags used to identify them when researchers blocked their internal cannabinoids, said Dr. Meliha Karsak, lead author and scientist in molecular neurobiology at the University of Bonn in Germany. Cannabinoids are involved in many of the body's daily functions, scientists believe, but they're still trying to figure out how.

Mice also healed faster from skin allergies with topical THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana and other plants, she said.

I expect at least two things will come from this study. First, the Bush administration's drug war czar will cast doubt on the findings and again dismiss the medicinal properties of marijuana. And second, there will be a rash of patients in states that allow the sale and dispensing of medical marijuana asking their doctors to prescribe some wonder weed.

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